In November, Pastor Allen McFarland, Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church, in Portsmouth was unanimously elected President of the SBC of Virginia by the messengers to the 2019 Annual Homecoming. Brandon Pickett recently sat down for a short Q&A with “Dr. Mac” so we could get to know him a little better.
BRANDON PICKETT: Can you tell us about your salvation?
PASTOR McFARLAND: I met my wife in Washington DC and went with her to church. I sat in the church and being as uncomfortable as I am most of the time, I saw Romans 10:9, If thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved. It’s very interesting that the verse says thou shall confess with thy mouth. I’m a stutterer. I don’t want to confess with my mouth. And yet, God used that verse because He was going to have me make a decision that day.
I realized that my wife was the best thing that could happen to me because of her sanctification, her godliness. I grew in the Lord with her. God blessed us with four daughters.
PICKETT: Tell me about your calling to the ministry, how did that come about?
McFARLAND: Well I’m always going back to my speech impediment; I joined a singing group with my wife. I never stuttered singing. I started introducing songs and enjoyed doing that. One Sunday, I came across Isaiah 52:7, How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news. I wrestled with that and thought, “God, no, no this is not for me.” But after church, I talked with my uncle and with the pastor of the church. They said, “Allen, when do you want to preach?” I said, “no, no, no… I don’t want to preach.” That was in ’72. The Sunday that the Redskins played Miami in the Superbowl in 1973, I preached my trial sermon.
PICKETT: Tell me about your ministry in Portsmouth?
McFARLAND: In February 1982, I was about to graduate seminary and went to a prayer retreat where my uncle was speaking, but he asked me to speak in his place. Some people from Calvary Evangelical were there. They asked me to do a revival for them. After that, they “twisted my arm” about becoming their pastor. I would say things like ‘no, I’m going to Atlanta. I’m going to plant a church.’ You know, attending Liberty University you would get that idea of church-planting. But I went and preached again at Calvary Evangelical and in September of ’82, I became their pastor. I was still living in Lynchburg so, we commuted every weekend for a year. At the time the congregation was very small. But God blessed and grew the church. This September, I will be there for 38 years.
PICKETT: How have you been able to minister to the community?
McFARLAND: I went there seeking fellowship. I was too black for the white pastors and too white for the black pastors. So, I felt that no one wanted to fellowship with me. Why? Because I went to the wrong school, Liberty University. Back then, Jerry Falwell was not very liked in the black community. But God let me know that He called me to minister to the people and we began to do just that.
PICKETT: Did you ever think that you would have an earned doctorate and be teaching at a University?
McFARLAND: No sir (laughing). I have a speech impediment. In fact, there are times when I’m preaching that I still get hung up on a word or so. When I was a teenager, a firecracker blew into pieces and I lost an eye. I was expelled from college twice. So, I grew up with all of the things that would have to make me strong.
Having a speech impediment humbled me because I hate it, but at the same time, God uses that. Whatever happens to me, it’s God… so I have to give Him the glory.
PICKETT: How is God using you at Liberty University?
McFARLAND: I drive every Monday, my day off, and teach a three-hour class and drive back. Years ago, I would say, ‘Dr. Falwell, how are we doing with diversity?’ One day, Elmer Towns reached over and said, ‘Allen why don’t you come up and teach?’ And I said ‘no, no, no’ to Dr. Towns. I lived 200 miles away, I’m a pastor. And only Elmer Towns could say, ‘Well, Allen, if you’re not going to do anything — keep your mouth shut.’ And that day Dr. Towns began to work things out with me and gave me a theology class. I have about 80 students this semester — some of the sharpest students in the world.
Two of my students are on staff with me now.
Pickett: What is your prayer for SBC of Virginia moving forward?
McFARLAND: SBCV has been a joy. We try to get involved with everything that the SBC of Virginia touches. We need SBCV because we are not alone, and our people need to have comradery with other churches. I am very privileged to have been asked to be the president. My prayer is to have more diversity. And that’s not all about racial reconciliation. I think the younger group is trying to reach the world. I’m very thankful to the Lord that I can have a voice, particularly in the black community. I’m reaching out to my community in area code 757 and to those who know me elsewhere. They’re on Facebook, and they see me. They’re congratulating me, and they’re interested in why. So, I’m sharing with them, ‘you need SBCV, you need what’s going on because it’ll help your church to grow.’ And that’s why I’m here. ■